Matthew Frumin, a Ward 3 advisory neighborhood commissioner and longtime education activist, announced Friday that he’s running in the April special election for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council.
Frumin, 53, is a former Clinton administration appointee who now works as an international trade attorney in the District. He also chairs ANC 3E, is active in the Washington Interfaith Network and serves on the mayor’s task force studying whether city power lines should be buried.
In an interview, Frumin said he decided to enter the potentially crowded race because he wants a renewed focus on citywide education issues as well as the need to make sure all parts of the city are benefiting from ongoing growth and development.
“I have been very active on education issues both in our community and citywide and where we are and where we are going on education is something that is a very important to me,” said Frumin, a Democrat who said he was a key leader in the Wilson High School modernization project.
Frumin said his campaign theme is “lets grow together,” because he wants to have a debate about how best to improve schools and increase affordable housing in every neighborhood of the city.
“I think it’s really important we grow together and every place gets the benefit of that growth,” said Frumin, who previously served on the Rock Creek West II Livability Study and Circulator task forces that studied transportation improvements. “I think we should use the opportunity of growth to come together as a city.’
Frumin, who’s being supported by activist and filmmaker Aviva Kempner, is the first surprise candidate in the April 23 election to fill the at-large seat left vacant by Phil Mendelson’s (D) election this month as council chairman.
Possible candidates include Sekou Biddle (D), who has served on the school board and the D.C. Council; school board member Patrick Mara, who is a former Republican council candidate; former Prince George’s County Council member Peter Shapiro (D); and A.J. Cooper, who ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for the council this year.
Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large), who lost his bid for reelection in November after struggling with questions about his finances, is considering running in the special election. Nick T. McCoy, a local Democratic and gay-rights activist who most recently worked for President Obama’s campaign in Virginia, is also expected to enter the race.
During the 1990s, Frumin was a major fundraiser for former president Bill Clinton, helping to lead a fundraising group known as the “Saxophone Club.” From 1998 to 2000, he served in the Clinton administration as a Special Assistant to the Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, focusing on women’s rights and human rights issues. He is now a partner of the law firm of Cassidy Levy Kent, though he plans to take a leave of absence in January so he can campaign full time.
Although he’s lived in the District for 30 years, Frumin returned to his home state of Michigan and mounted an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2000, challenging Republican Joseph Knollenberg. Frumin received 41 percent of the vote, a respectable showing in what was an overwhelmingly Republican District at the time.
Despite being relatively unknown citywide, Frumin said he believes his past campaign experience will give him an edge in the at-large race, where turnout is expected to be light.
“I am not new to a big campaign, and I think the way I comported myself in that campaign bodes well in how I would do in this race,” said Frumin, noting that he also has extensive experience raising money. “We have lived here for 30 years, and know a lot of people and have built, I hope, a reputation for being committed to doing positive things that will lead to a natural base of support.”